Could 2016 Be The Year Everything Changed?

In the same week of October, Microsoft and Apple both debuted new products.  In past years, creatives, especially Professional Creatives, would drool over the latest slick and cool Apple products.   But here in 2016, the bulk of the reactions I found online and through direct communications were all about Microsoft.

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It seems that Microsoft has decided to take advantage of the current stagnant nature of Apple in the computer world.  Oh sure Apple introduced a “touch strip” calling it “new” but PCs have had a version of the touch strip for a few years now.   And of course, Windows PCs have been available with full touch screen displays for years now as well.  But Microsoft sees an opening to not only the creative world, but the general public through some very innovative and “Mac-like” products.

Apple has, rightfully, become a lifestyle company built around “things” with the centerpiece being the iPhone.  The iPhone put Apple on a completely new track arcing away from computers and towards consumer goods.   The iPad, the Watch, the AppleTV.  All consumer goods designed to make the lives easier of those who own them.  They’re all mini-computers to be sure, but they’re consumer items with more or less specific purposes.  And consumers have rewarded the company well.  So it appears that Apple’s current position is the general consumer doesn’t need much more than a laptop these days and they don’t really want a touch screen.  I personally believe Apple is just waiting for the death of the “computer” as an item in the home and you’ll just use your phone / tablet / watch as all the computing you’ll need along with a wireless keyboard to use cloud based apps via your TV or tablet.

Now how did Apple come to be “THE” lifestyle company to the masses?  Well it wasn’t through blazing computer sales.  Apple computers sales ALWAYS lagged behind PCs.  Generally far, far behind PCs because you could only get them from one company, they were more costly than PCs and you couldn’t just build one easily of the shelf.  Only “artists” would use a Mac because….. well we liked working with them and they were generally “cooler” than PCs.

That “cool” factor helped Apple when it was ready to make the leap from computer to lifestyle company.  Enter the iPod.  10,000 songs at your fingertips and in your pocket.  No matter what the competition threw at Apple, the iPod was too cool to beat and Steve Jobs was the ultimate cool salesman.   The iPhone sent the company to the stratosphere and suddenly computers were no longer front and center at Apple.  The iPads and MacBook Airs followed along with the Watch as the old bread and butter towers of yore faded to the background.    But it was those cool computers that gave Apple the clout and the consumers the confidence that their innovative devices not only looked good, but would work reliably.    And now we’re at the point where Apple is no longer a computer company first.

I believe Microsoft sees an opening into the hearts and minds of both consumers and professionals alike by re-inventing the computer experience around touch screen.  Consumers are already used to touch screen tablets and phones.   While the Surface Tablet has steadily improved, sales are far behind the iPad, though Apple is no longer the dominant tablet maker with less than 25% market share as of Q2 2016.   So by taking a step “back” and re-invigorating the personal computer experience with an over the top Surface Studio and more powerful Studio tablets, Microsoft has suddenly become the “cool” computer company.    Their Surface tablets run full desktop software putting it on par with the MacBook Air.  Microsoft has a buzz around their products that resemble the Apple buzz of old.

So taking a page from the Apple playbook, Microsoft could use the reinvigorated computer experience which includes Windows 10 as an entryway into the full lifestyle experience.   The Windows Phone failed to catch on and the Zoom audio player never got anywhere.  But the living room is probably the next great battleground with streaming video services and devices.   If Microsoft gets the Surface re-launch right, they could re-introduce Microsoft as an innovated lifestyle company.   Right now Microsoft, HP and other PC companies are getting noticed for innovation in the computer space while Apple treads water.

As for me personally, I have probably made my final Apple purchase as I’ll trade in my current MacBook Air for a Surface Tablet.  For my professional computers, the 27″ 5k Retina iMac will be my final Mac for work.  What will replace it remains to be seen, either a custom PC desktop or the Surface Studio.

Where does the computer and lifestyle space go from here?  It will be interesting to see how this Apple / Microsoft story plays out over the next 2 – 5 years.

9 replies
  1. Gordon says:

    You’re right, this is the year, people start to notice that Microsoft’s up to something. But I think it will be a few more iterations before people start switching.

    Reply
    • Walter Biscardi says:

      I think the key for Microsoft will be how they partner with and integrate strong products that are already out there. A Windows based streaming box tied to Vizio for example. But they have definitely gotten the world re-introduced to how “cool” PCs can be and they’re not ready for the junk heap yet.

      Reply
  2. Al B says:

    100% agree with you. And Microsoft always has had strong partnerships. I think that, with cloud computing, and the huge use of pads for portable needs, that the desktop for pros is going to re-emerge. I find myself looking very closely at the Microsoft offerings. Apple’s newest laptops are just not worth upgrading to. I have almost the same configuration in my 2014 MB pro and 27″ iMac.
    MSFT needs to pay the devs that have key Apple software to develop for Windows10, which they have an entire division to sell to them so it’s not out of the question.
    Given that I have moved from FCP 7 to Pr and the Adobe suite, it’s only a matter of NTFS formatting to get me over to it. I can always leave a few key apps on my Mac, just like running Windows 7 in a virtual on my Mac now for an app that is great at DVD labeling and not on Windows. Virtual is not fast enough for full time Pr work though.

    Reply
    • Walter Biscardi says:

      I have a few friends who are using the Surface Tablet in lieu of a laptop now and I can see that they have similar and better specs than my current MacBook Air. I edit with Premiere on here and use Photoshop all the time so if I can do that, then the Surface can easily do the same. I would not edit all day with it, but for evenings and personal projects, it works just fine. I’m really looking forward to trying out a Surface Studio Pro desktop the next time I’m near a Microsoft store.

      Reply
      • Shameer Mulji says:

        I’ll give MS credit. The Surface Studio look great. Good for them. One thing though, is what creative pro is it aimed at? If you watch the intro video, the only examples they show are drawing / annotating / note taking. No video editing / production and no music production. On top of that it maxes out at 32GB of RAM (in many cases this may not be enough for heavy video production work)

        https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/surface/devices/surface-studio/overview

        So it seems that initially, it’s aimed at a very specific segment of the creative pro market

        Reply
        • Walter Biscardi says:

          This machine will easily handle small to pretty heavy video production work. We’ve been running 32GB iMacs for over three years now cutting everything from corporate jobs to full documentaries. Specs on the iMacs are dated compared to this machine so yeah, it’ll cut video production work just fine.

          Reply
  3. Shameer Mulji says:

    “As for me personally, I have probably made my final Apple purchase as I’ll trade in my current MacBook Air for a Surface Tablet.”

    Have you looked at the new 13″ MBP without Touch Bar? It doesn’t have a touch screen but it’s incredibly light and powerful (head & shoulders above the MBA).

    Reply
    • Walter Biscardi says:

      No, no interest at all in the MPB, no interest at all in a Mac laptop. The MacBook Air is simply for writing and keeping up with my blogs. For primary editing I’m on desktop machines. As I said in the article, I’ll most likely go with a Microsoft Surface or possibly the HP Envy to replace this Air when I’m ready.

      Reply
  4. Scott says:

    Yes, its unfortunate. I’m having to opt out of Mac usage. Lack of upgradability etc just means I’ve no option. There’s a lot of stuff to port to PC when it happens! I’d be interested to hear what your custom PC builds will comprise of. Keep us posted.

    Reply

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